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Audrey Steele, center, a sixth grader at Mullens Middle School, took first place in Wyoming County Schools’ Spelling Bee. Andrew Sherwood, left, an eighth grade student at Huff Consolidated Elementary and Middle, is the runner-up. The two will compete as equals in the Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee March 9 in Charleston. Paige Hatfield, an Oceana Middle eighth grader, serves as alternate.

From zero to apricot, Wyoming County Schools’ best spellers competed in the annual Spelling Bee Thursday in the Pineville Middle School auditorium.

Audrey Steele, a sixth grader at Mullens Middle School, took first place in Round 5 after correctly spelling the championship word: apricot.

She also spelled cafeteria correctly in Round 4 after Andrew Sherwood, an eighth grade student at Huff Consolidated Elementary and Middle, misspelled bevel.

Steele and Sherwood will compete as equals in the Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee, scheduled March 9 in Charleston.

In Round 3, seven students tied for the alternate position, or third place. All seven returned to the stage for two more rounds of spelling. Paige Hatfield, an eighth grader at Oceana Middle, earned the alternate position.

In the event the winner or runner-up cannot compete in the regional contest, Hatfield will take the spot.

The winner of the regional contest advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, near Washington D.C.

The 22 county contestants included first place winners and runners-up from schools housing fourth through eighth grades. The students competed as equals in the county competition.

“You’re already winners,” Debbie Hall, spelling bee director, told the students. Hall serves as federal and learning enrichment programs director.

School winners and runners-up, respectively, include the following:

Baileysville Elementary and Middle: Aiden Lester, Brayden Lester.

Berlin McKinney Elementary: Rashaylyn Bailey, Lily Green.

Glen Fork Elementary and Middle: Jinna Brown, Tricia Bailey.

Herndon Consolidated Elementary and Middle: Chloe Quesenberry, Carynn Sansom.

Huff Consolidated Elementary and Middle: Andrew Sherwood, Fischer Cline.

Mullens Elementary: Miley McBride, Kenneth Green.

Mullens Middle: Audrey Steele, Kenna Price.

Oceana Middle: Paige Hatfield, Erin Cook.

Pineville Elementary: Brendan Pendry, Dylan Golden.

Pineville Middle: Sydnie Thomas, Austin Pennington.

Road Branch Elementary and Middle: Calista Bachert, Kaitlyn Echegaray.

Keith Stewart, Westside High principal, served as pronouncer.

Judges included Rebecca Cooke, assistant superintendent elementary/middle schools; Robin Hall, assistant superintendent secondary schools; and Kara Halsey-Mitchell, academic programs director.

Stacey Butcher, personnel and assessment director, served as technology coordinator.

Duane Blankenship, a 1983 graduate of Baileysville High and now a resident of Florida, provided specially-designed T-shirts for each participant.

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